Pace Quickens in State Legislatures; Task Force Issues Legislative Update
Massive Mobilization in State Capitals to Counter Violence and Discrimination
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
Today, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force released its second summary of state legislative activity for the 1999 session. In its last legislative update, NGLTF reported a record number of bills introduced in state legislatures with respect to GLBT and HIV/AIDS-related bills. This already-frenetic pace of legislative activity has further quickened over the past month.
While pro-GLBT legislation outnumbers hostile legislation by a two-to-one ratio, many favorable bills have already been killed for the 1999 session. Nearly half of the 65 introduced hate crimes bills have been defeated in spite of widespread public outrage over the highly publicized hate-motivated murders of James Byrd Jr. in Texas, Matthew Shepard in Wyoming, and Billy Jack Gaither in Alabama.
"Ironically, the region most impacted by the vicious murder of Matthew Shepard are the states most resistant to passing hate crimes laws," stated Kerry Lobel, executive director of the Task Force in reference to Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and Idaho defeating their hate crimes bills. "The outrage did not materialize into legislative action."
Nine states of an original twenty from the beginning of the legislative session have live comprehensive civil rights legislation banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations.
The right wing continues its assaults on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families. This year, bills seeking to deny GLBT families adoptive and foster parent rights have been introduced in eight states. Anti-GLBT marriage bills have been introduced in 13 states, and ten remain alive. At the same time, Rhode Island has introduced legislation to legalize same-sex marriage.
While anti-GLBT legislation abounds, states have become much more adept at fending off hostile legislation. This year's battles to defeat anti-same-sex marriage bills have been particularly successful, as none have passed for this session.
Details about these measures and those related to civil rights, schools, sodomy, transgender, domestic partnership, campus, health, and HIV/AIDS issues can be found in the Task Force's Legislative Update, which will be released monthly. At the end of the year, the Task Force will release Capital Gains and Losses, a complete report on state legislative activity for 1999.
The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movementís premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.
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